December 12, 2014

DIY speaker gift: Speaker Survival Kit!

Last March, I had a booth at a local women's business festival. I wanted to give something away in a drawing that would be useful to those who stopped by, and specifically useful to speakers.

What I came up with was my "Speaker Survival Kit," and I wanted to pass this idea along to you as a fun gift that you can put together, in a variety of price ranges, for your favorite speaker.

Click here to see what I put in my bag of goodies

This kit cost me about $50 to put together. You can make yours smaller and less elaborate, or go all out!

For example, I could also have included a nice refillable water bottle, some flip chart markers, or a fun noisemaker to get the audience's attention back after an activity.

I grouped small items together in clear cellophane bags, so it wasn't a big mess inside.

Have fun, and if you do make a Speaker Survival Kit for someone, I'd love to hear about it!

December 2, 2014

My 2015 holiday speaker gift list is here!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

And it's also the time of the year, when I update my annual list of speaker gifts, to help you find the best gifts for the speaker in your life -- who might just be you! There are also oldies but goodies here that are my go-to items, so take a look and have fun shopping.

New goodies

As I've gotten more comfortable shooting DIY video, I've realized that I need
one good backdrop that I can always use in a pinch. Sometimes I like to arrange a nice scene behind me, but more often I just want a simple plain backdrop. Here are two options; one is low-tech (and inexpensive) and one is high-tech (and still pretty reasonable)!

This kit comes with a muslin backdrop, stand and two lights.

Or, if your space is limited, do what I've done and buy yourself some nice backdrop paper that you can tape or pin to the wall in the place you're shooting your video!

I've also been doing more webinars and teleseminars over the past couple of years, and good audio is a critical component of these recordings. If people can't clearly hear you, if the sound is scratchy or contains interference, they will turn off your recording, period.

It's worth investing in a decent microphone (preferably wired, for best sound); here are my picks.

For off-camera recordings, like webinars and teleseminars, I use a big ol' USB headset like this one. The audio quality is excellent and it's fairly comfortable.

When you're on-camera for, say, a Google Hangout, then you may not want to look like a big dork in a giant headset. In that case, check out a desktop USB microphone like this one. I'm still in the market for a good desktop mic, and this will likely be it.

There are lot of little things you can have on hand in your speaker kit that'll make your life easier: hand sanitizer (for all those hands you're going to shake), extra batteries, a bottle of water, some mints, masking tape, notebook and pen.... Two things I always have on hand are lip balm (this one is made by one of my favorite local companies in Santa Barbara) and a pocket pack of toothpicks (you do not want food in your teeth when you take the stage!).

Oldies but goodies...


I've been using the Flip cam forever, and while it's no longer being manufactured, mine still works great! The video quality is excellent, and the sound is pretty good. It doesn't have a mic jack, unfortunately, so in those times when I need an audio boost, I might use my Samsung phone instead.

The problem with my phone is that there's no way to attach it to a tripod. The solution? This fabulous little GripTight adapter from Joby. I particularly recommend this one because it expands to fit my Samsung Galaxy SIII, even in its case. Most adapters are made to fit the iPhone and are too small for the Samsung. This adapter will fit any phone. It folds flat and even has a hole to add it to your keychain. I love this little guy!

Joby also makes the GorillaPod, a portable, bendable tripod that you can use anywhere and wrap around anything! A great addition to your video bag of tricks, especially if you like shooting on-the-go. (See both together in the photo on the left.)

Unhitch yourself from the laptop with a wireless presentation remote. This one fits perfectly in my hand, and has simple buttons to move slides forward, backward, and black out the screen. (It also has a laser pointer, but please don't use that.) There are a lot of nice remotes on the market; pick the one that fits best in your hand and has the features that you need.

I love my portable 4-port USB hub, and it is a permanent part of my speaking bag of tricks. I never know when I'll need more ports (for example, ports on the host's computer are too close together for more than one of my USB drives to fit).


Make your flip chart notes portable when you carry a lightweight table top easel pad. The sheets stick to the wall like giant Post-It notes and can be placed around the room for further reference throughout your presentation. The easel folds out to stand on a table and folds flat for transport. You can also hang it from a traditional flip chart easel.

Or if you're in the market for a reusable flip chart, try this table top dry erase easel pad.

And for notes on the go, with clients or in small group presentations around a table, try these peel-and-stick dry erase sheets that you can quickly post on the wall, write and erase, or as I've done, just punch holes in them and keep them in a notebook for easy access. (You'll also need dry erase markers to go with these boards and sheets. This pack has nontoxic low-odor ink.)

For regular flip charts, I like these scented markers for their bright, saturated colors, but if you prefer unscented bullet tip markers and have concerns about the markers bleeding through the paper, try these instead.

Fun and Useful Stuff

How about trying out a document stand for your speaker notes? I keep my notes to the side of the stage, on a table or lectern, and in order to see them clearly (I also use a big font!), it's nice to be able to stand them up to make them more visible from afar. This one is foldable. I don't use a clip, however, because I want to be able to flip pages quickly.

I've brought back some of my favorite speaker sayings as magnets in the Zazzle store. If you're looking for a cheeky stocking stuffer for your favorite speaker, this is it!

To keep your audience engaged and stimulated, bring toys, toys, toys, and more toys. These are some of my favorites!

Use this hand pointer to poke some fun at the audience.

Need a way to haul all your tools and materials around? I've got a rolling craft cart similar to this one. Holds everything I need!

Reading Recommendations

Still my favorite book out there: Learn how to make your message memorable with Chip and Dan Heath's Made to Stick.

Dump the boring templates and bullets and create engaging support materials with Beyond Bullet Points, Cliff Atkinson's book that teaches how to outline and design image-based slides with ease.

Titles a bore? Not any more! Get Sam Horn's POP! Create the Perfect Pitch, Title, and Tagline For Anything, and give your presentation and blog titles that extra WOW factor.

Learn how to persuade anyone of anything with this easy read: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

An interesting sneak peek behind the scenes of the motivational speaking industry is Yes You Can! Behind the Hype and Hustle of the Motivation Biz.

If you'd like an alternative to the usual Martin Luther King/Lincoln/Churchill "famous speeches" books, how about one that shines the spotlight on historical speeches by women? Women at the Podium : Memorable Speeches in History

Packed full of useful tips based on real professional speakers' experiences, National Speakers Association "Speaker Magazine" is a must-have to build your skills.

And if you don't like lugging books around with you, maybe it's time to invest in a Kindle. Once you buy your Kindle, then you can download this blog and my 101 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking to take with you!


Last but not least, if you think the aspiring speaker in your life might benefit from some self-paced training for best practices in audience engagement and general presentation success, then consider giving the gift of my home study program, "Speak to Engage: 7-Step Shortcut to Public Speaking Success."

This is a web-based program with audios, videos, articles, a workbook and other resources for any speaker to complete at their own pace, on their own time schedule, with all the benefits of working with me in a live program!

Get in touch if you'd like to give this as a gift, and we'll work out the details!

Whew! The list changes every year, and I hope you find something here to make your presentations smoother and more effective, or a gift for that special speaker in your life. Happy Holidays!

October 28, 2014

Thinking of doing a Hangout? Read this first!

Wearing a virtual cat face on a Google Hangout
This is not going to be a technology article, so if that's what you were hoping for... sorry!

Nope, just good ol' fashioned presentation advice, but the kind you need when you're going to be on camera.

I recently watched a Google Hangout where the content was all good, but the speakers' on-camera performance left much to be desired.

Just a few simple adjustments would have made this presentation so much better, and I would have been able to focus on the content rather than the distractions of the visuals.

Here are some tips for you whether you're live on a Hangout or shooting a DIY video for later upload.

1. Place your webcam at or above eye level

When you sit at your desk, your screen tends to be a little bit lower than eye level, unless you have a really high desk or a massive monitor. But when you shoot a Hangout or video, you don't want to be looking DOWN at your audience, which is what will happen if you keep your monitor where it is.

If you're using a laptop, elevate it on some books or a box, so that you're looking directly into the camera or even looking up a bit. If you're using a standalone webcam (anyone still use those?) position it the same way.

2. Actually look AT the webcam

I'm shocked when I watch a video or Hangout, and professionals who should know better are looking down at the screen instead of into the camera. Just because you're looking at someone's face on the screen, doesn't mean you're making eye contact with your audience. If you want to make eye contact (and your audience wants you to), you must look INTO the webcam lens.

This takes practice, and it helps some people to tape a picture of someone next to the lens. The more you get used to talking into the camera, the easier it becomes.

3. Put on some powder

Yes, guys, even you. The last thing I want to see on a livestream is some sweaty, shiny guy on the other side. I'm the least likely person to tell you to wear makeup, because I don't enjoy wearing it, and it's actually one thing that keeps me from shooting as much video as I should.

But you don't need full stage makeup, just a little something to even out a blotchy complexion and keep you from blinding the viewer. A little basic street makeup for women, and at least some powder for men is required to keep you from looking either shiny or washed out on the screen. And guys, that powder will need to go on your pate as well, if you're losing your hair. Just sayin'.

4. Pay attention to your backdrop

If you don't have a nice backdrop at your desk, fake one. Ruth Sherman taught me to put a plant or some flowers behind me to liven up (and lighten up) the scenery, even if I have to put them on a step stool.

Your audience can't see what's holding it all up; they just want something pleasant and non-distracting behind you instead of saggy drab curtains, a mishmash of books and knickknacks, or a big piece of drywall (which is what you would see behind me at my desk if I let you!).

You don't have to have a fancy studio setup or expensive lighting when shooting video or live Hangouts. But as a professional who wants to be seen as an authority and an expert, you do have to come across as someone who knows what they're doing and has the confidence of a pro. And the last thing you want to do is distract your audience with these piddly but noticeable mistakes.

Making these little tweaks to your appearance and to your performance will make a subtle but important difference in how your audience perceives you, your credibility level, and overall, your ability to make a connection and build a relationship with your audience.

October 17, 2014

Information doesn't excite your audience

Photo Credit: Dan Harrelson via Compfight cc
A client told me the other day that his wife says he never knows when to shut up. And he recognizes that this is a problem when he speaks.

He told me he's afraid that if he doesn't give enough information, the audience won't be as excited as he is.

Of course, this inspired me to create a teleseminar called "How to know when to shut up," and I'll keep you posted when that's ready!

But for now, let's just address this issue of giving a ton of information so people will get excited.

Do people get excited from information? Not really.

What excites people is your own emotional engagement with the topic.

What excites people is discovering how they'll benefit from what you're saying, offering, doing, sharing.

Information has never excited an audience, I'm sorry to say.

All information does is overwhelm your audience. It makes their brain freeze up and stop accepting new information. It's called cognitive overload. (This article explains it well.)

What's the best way to make sure you're not overwhelming the audience? Leave some stuff out!

I know it's hard to do this, because we think they need to know everything we know. And that's usually a bad idea.

It's much easier to give too little information and then let the audience fill in the gaps with their own questions, than it is to give too much information and leave them overloaded and ready for a nap.

You can always ask, "What more would you like to know about this?" or "What did you feel was missing from what I covered?" Leave room at the end to address some of their answers.

And hey, they can always e-mail you, Facebook you, Tweet you or just call you. You are not going to disappear off the face of the earth once you walk out of the room. If you do your job, and the audience is engaged, intrigued and inspired, they will seek you out for more.

And isn't that better than leaving them drowning in content, filled to the brim with so much data, that their brain is no longer processing and their eyes have glazed over?

I'm guessing you'll say yes.

October 9, 2014

Want to be a better speaker? You have to take action.

Which one of these sounds like you?

>> You enjoy speaking, and you know you could make a bigger impact if you could just tweak your skills.

>> You "get by" when giving presentations, but you know you're nowhere near the top of your game, and you need to step it up.

>> You don't enjoy speaking at all, mostly because you don't really know how to create and prepare for a presentation, and thus have no confidence in your ability to pull it off.

These three scenarios describe about 90% of my clients. I do have clients who are already good speakers, they enjoy speaking, and they have a high-stakes presentation coming up that's outside the realm of what they've done before. But the majority are in one of the three camps mentioned above.

The question is this: You know you need to change, so what are you going to do about it?

Are you going to keep lamenting your circumstances, or are you going to step up to the plate and make a decision that will take you in the direction you need to go?

Are you going to make excuses to yourself about why you can't get help to implement the necessary changes (it's always money or time, right?) or are you going to find a way to make it happen?

Are you fed up with being stuck in the same place for so long with no apparent solution?

I know I was. 

At about the five-year mark in my business, I had the sudden revelation that I was flying by the seat of my pants. For FIVE YEARS, I had been making things up as I went along, grabbing this free training and that free PDF and piecing together a mishmash of materials whenever I needed to learn something new. 

And my business was stagnant.

So I finally decided to take a leap of faith, and started investing in my business. I invested in a small program at first, which taught me how to systemize aspects of my business that still had no rhyme or reason. Then I invested in a bigger program, that had me flying across the country for a three-day training.

Then I took the leap (literally, into Alicia Forest's LEAP Studio), and invested in a 9-month group coaching program. This series of events caused my business to take its own leap forward, and every year since that I've invested in my own training, my business has continued to grow -- and I've made all my investments back.

I'm telling you this because I know how it feels to be stuck, to wish that we could just magically change things without investing time or money. I offer a lot of free teleseminars, e-books, and this blog. But free will only take you so far.

So I invite you to invest in your public speaking improvement, the impact you make on your audience, the growth that you will see in yourself and in your business, through my upcoming program, "Speak to Engage: 7-Step Shortcut to Public Speaking Success," starting on October 21. 

It's virtual, so you can attend from anywhere, by phone or by computer.

It's recorded, so you can listen at any time if you can't make one of the sessions.

It's fun, especially when people show up and participate in the live calls and in the Facebook group!

There's a nifty early bird rate, some great bonuses, and a 2-pay option, all available until October 17

And... it's super affordable. It's dip-your-toe-in-the-water affordable. It's maybe-someday-I'll-work-with-Lisa affordable. It's I-know-I'm-ready-to-stop-stagnating affordable.

Will you take a look? And let me know if you have any questions. I hope you'll take your own leap - and join me!

P.S. It's my ninth anniversary this month of my coaching business! If I hadn't taken that leap a few years ago, I would certainly not be where I am now.

October 7, 2014

How do you like me now?

Playing around with a new look, just the reverse of the color scheme I've been using for 8 years.

Change is hard, and this blog needs a serious design overhaul, but I think this is a step in the right direction.

I also want it to look more like my website, as much as is possible with completely different design tools.

What do you think? Please comment!

October 3, 2014

Is being emotional a positive in business?

Barbara Corcoran posted the following question on Twitter during last week's Shark Tank episode: "What do you think - is being emotional a positive in business?"

Of course, as a speaker, my immediate answer was "Yes!" Then I pulled up the responses, and they were overwhelmingly negative:





"Can work both ways. Most of the time, it's not a good thing."

"Was just saying 2 myself crying in business 2 me is such a turn off. No matter how moving."

"I think it's good to be emotionally vested but not a good idea to let your emotions run the show."

"No. emotions can make you look weak and you never want to look weak in business."


To be fair, there were a few people who saw the positives of emotion in business:

"Emotional investment is a must, however, know your audience. Know when to pull back & when to show passion."

"I think the old saying is should be, 'It's not business, it's just personal.'"

"ABSOLUTELY! Passion breeds hustle!"

"Yes! passion lights the fire to move your business to a whole new level."

"Yes - if you're in control of them."

The reason she asked this question is that one of the entrepreneurs pitching the sharks started to cry when he explained why he was trying to get his business funded. His girlfriend's parents don't approve of him and won't let her leave Japan to be with him. When he becomes "respectable," he hopes her parents will relent.

It was a moving scenario, and I imagine there was just a little bit of nervousness and anxiety underlying this outburst due to standing in front of the five sharks!

But here's what I interpreted from the answers to Barbara's questions: The "good" kind of emotion is called "passion." The "bad" kind of emotion involves crying and leads to being perceived as weak.

I found it an incredibly narrow and shallow view of what constitutes emotion.

Do you want to intrigue your prospect (or your audience)? Do you want them to be curious? Do you want them to feel frustrated with the way things are going and to buy your service or product so they can improve their circumstances? Do you want them to laugh and feel connected to you when you're on stage or when they see your funny commercial? Do you want them to feel superior to others who don't buy your product (there are companies who do)? Do you want to piss them off so much that they take action?

Do any of these emotions I've mentioned above involve crying or weakness? Or even passion?

I also understand that Barbara asked the question very specifically with the words, "being emotional," which has its own connotation, that is, using emotion inappropriately.

But I'm going to argue that using emotion, or "being emotional" (because after all, we're human, and humans are emotional creatures) is a critical tool in business and for speakers.

Emotions are complex, varied, universal (but individually triggered in different ways) and powerfully motivating.

Why would you limit your use of your own emotions to move your audience to take action?

Why would you limit your ability to affect your audience's emotions in a way that makes them feel connected, curious, enthusiastic, greedy, hungry, hopeful or one of a hundred other touchy-feely words that -- by the way -- prompt your audience to engage with you in a way that serves them and brings you more clients, more visibility, more income, or whatever else it is you are trying to achieve?

No, don't get up on stage and bawl your eyes out. And haranguing and yelling at your audience is only going to make them hate you.

But hey, even a heartfelt and spontaneous catch in the throat or slight tearing up is okay with most audiences. And if a show of emotion from a speaker or businessperson is truly not welcome, then you must be speaking to a roomful of cyborgs. That's an article for another day!
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